K Dock Berkeley Marina in Oils

Oil on RayMar panel, 12 x 9″ (Click to see larger)

This is my first “official” plein air oil painting that I did at the Berkeley Marina this morning where I joined a group of local plein air painters. I’m so thrilled to have found them. We met at 10:00 and then  went off to to paint in different spots, getting together again at 1:00 for a lively critique. I got some very useful suggestions  (e.g. adjust the bottom line of the boats is straight across the canvas so adjust to more of a diagonal slantig down to the left). I noticed that very problem when I was working out my preliminary thumbnail/value sketches but I momentarily forgot about artistic license and left it as I saw it instead of changing it for a better composition.

Although I felt shy about being so unskilled at oils and plein air painting I felt very welcomed by the group. It was a beautiful sunny (but cool and windy) day in Berkeley with the usual assortment of nuts, hikers, bikers, families and local characters passing by who all stopped to offer supportive comments or tell me about an artist they know or have seen before. I was so pleasantly suprised — not one person said, “Ewwww! What a bad painting!” or laughed at me. I didn’t worry about that with watercolor but somehow with an easel and all the trappings I felt like I stood out more.

Plein air set up at Berkeley Marina
(Click to see larger)

This is my new Guerilla Painter 9×12″ Pochade Box Plein Air Easel set up and I love it! It holds almost everything needed for painting plein air and is sturdy and super fast and easy to set up. I’ve never been so impressed with a company’s customer service as I had at Judson’s Plein Air either. I had a million dumb questions in trying to decide whether to buy this “cigar box” style easel or a french easel or a Soltek (which I couldn’t afford anyway) and when I called (twice) I spoke to Monica, who patiently answered every question, gave great advice, way above and beyond the usual which was so appreciated by this novice plein air painter.

The box is incredibly well made, really beautiful and makes setting up to paint, painting and carrying wet canvases a cinch. They also offer watercolor and pastel and acrylic versions of this box in various sizes. The tripod has a quick release so you just set the box on it and it clicks into place, and is very sturdy. It has separate adjustments for height and leg spread (far apart for windy, rough, or uneven conditions). It comes with an attached “stone bag” (the black thing at the bottom) for putting something heavy on it to weigh it down (only necessary for gale force winds, I’d think because it was windy today and nothing budged or wiggled). Their Mighty-Mite Brush washer  jar is also wonderful. It fits in the box and doesn’t leak like every other container for mineral spirits I’ve found. The palette is in just the right spot as is the canvas with this box. I bought the plastic covered palette accessory which is a good addition. As someone who really appreciates good tools, I couldn’t be happier.

In the picture above on the right is my shopping cart I use for carting my plein air supplies around. It’s pretty practical although stuff can fall out the open spaces and picking it up is tricky since it tries to fold in on itself. I’ve ordered two different closed wheely carriers and when I get them will compare them all and pick the best for my purposes.

Thumbnail value sketch tools
(Click for larger image)

Above are the tools I used to make my preliminary thumbnail composition and value sketches. I recently discovered wonderful Copic markers–they’re fabulous — no smell and they blend and go on like silk. This handy composition/value finder can be opened to a marked setting for the size of paper or canvas. Then you close one eye and look through it to decide what to put in your composition. It’s middle gray so that you can also compare colors to it to determine if they’re darker or lighter. I used its opening to trace the rectangles in my Aquabee sketchbook so that the thumbnails would be the same dimensions as my canvas.

Landscape, Oil Painting, Outdoors/Landscape, Painting, Plein Air, Sketchbook Pages

Join the conversation! 16 Comments

  1. GLORIOUS, JANA! SIMPLY OUTSTANDING! Water so blue — and the orange/red of the boat zings! I love seeing how you work — from thumbnails and photo to finished work! So so glad you found some an amicable group and that this outing was such fun!!! LOVE your work, Jana …!! Keep it comin’!!


  2. Luck you, finding such a nice group. I like what you’ve done here, too – it’s hard to believe you consider yourself a novice at oils.


  3. that is a great plien air painting(mine only attempt looked like a 4-year old painted it.

    Thanks for the info on the pochade.

    As far as your cart, take a look at stalpes. The folks in my class are using something that looks like a large solid-sided milk cart on wheels. It has a retractable hands an folds when not in use. I think it costs between$16-26.


  4. Jana, it’s full of atmosphere– you caught that misty feel and light of early morning on the water so
    vividly that it feels as if I’m there. And how you did it
    in oils, amazes me.


  5. Love the painting.

    The Guerilla Painter Box looks just perfect.

    Glad you’ve found some nice groups to get out and do some painting with.

    Thanks, Now I’m excited to get out and do some more plein air painting.


  6. I love this painting and, as someone trying to get going with painting plein air, I appreciate your sharing about your experiences and equipment. Congratulations on finding a group to paint with and getting yourself out there. This is a fantastic start.


  7. your plein air painting looks super and the pochade box looks drool worthy 😀


  8. hi jana. congrats on your bravery! and thanks for all the info. on the equipment. Your set up looks great.


  9. Oil painting en plein air is a total mystery to me. It takes me days to get anything on the canvas. This is wonderfully atmospheric. Love the detail of your kit and the thought of your group. How delightful.


  10. that’s really nice, great job! I discovered those copic markers recently too, they’re really useful.


  11. What a neat little view finder and such a competent attempt at plein air with all the stuff. It does look more obvious but clearly you’ve made the leap.


  12. Like your work, painting with the pochade box is best thing any artist can do. Will keep looking at your work.



  13. I’ve just ordered a “Julian” 8×6 Pochade Box and I’m really looking forward to it. I reckon the spontaniety of pochade painting will bring excitement to painting. You only have to look at http://www.pochademagic.com to see what’s possible.

    Your painting looks great! I’m sure you’re going to enjoy the new group of friends you’ve made and will no doubt produce many new and exciting paintings in that lovely part of the world you live in.

    Regards, Tom (UK).


  14. I was researching all the options trying to decide which pochade box was right for me when I came across your blog. They should hire you to sell those boxes! I was worried that the tall piece of wood on the front of the box would get in the way of my arm but I can see from your picture that, with the box at an angle, the edge of the box is out of the way. I was also worried that the 9×12 box would be too heavy to lug around. But at my age, 57, I’m not planning on doing any backpacking painting, just staying fairly close to the car. A shopping cart should work for me too. Is the box hard to lift when it is full of stuff?
    Thanks for the time you spent compiling all the good information.


  15. Hi Joan,
    I eventually moved on from the Guerilla box to a Soltek easel which is more flexible and quicker to set up since it’s all one piece. It’s a lot more expensive though. I didn’t have any trouble transporting the 9×12 box — it wasn’t too heavy. I’m 60 and have a bad back so I know what you mean about carting heavy stuff. The board in front didn’t bother me — it actually served as a sort of mahl stick – a place to steady my arm if I needed one. If you want to store all your stuff in the box, you need to know that you may have to snip off the end of your brushes as full length oil painting brushes are too long for the box. I keep my brushes in a separate folding canvas brush carrier to protect them so that isn’t really an issue.

    I’m very happy with the Soltek (although as I was warned, the legs are a bit glitchy and I’ve had to replace one of mine and you can only get them from Soltek). My painting teacher uses an EasyL easel, as do many pro plein air painters. . I think they’re pretty expensive too. One nice thing about them is that when you’ve got your panel mounted for painting the top of the box on which it’s mounted also blocks the sun from your palette, which the Soltek doesn’t do (but the Guerilla does). I’m not sure if you can use canvases on EasyL, which you can on Guerilla and Soltek.

    Let me know what you end up with and how you like it.



  16. “Berkeley Marina & Guerilla Painter Pochade Box | JanasJournal.

    com” was a remarkable read and also I personally was truly satisfied to find the blog.
    Many thanks,Niamh


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